Mr. Lewis to Mr. Bayard.

No. 163.]

Sir: Immediately upon the receipt of Department instructions No. 103, relating to the fine imposed upon the American bark Carrie Heckle by the Portuguese custom-house authorities at Lourenço Marques on the east coast of Africa. I addressed a communication dated 22d instant to Senhor Henrique de Barros Gomes, minister of foreign affairs, a copy of which accompanies this dispatch. I have this day received a communication from Senhor Barros Gomes, and forward inclosed copy and translation thereof.

I have, etc.,

E. P. C. Lewis.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 163.]

Mr. Lewis to Mr. Gomes.

Sir: I am instructed by my Government to call your excellency’s attention to a case that has occurred in Delagoa Bay, on the east coast of Africa. It appears that on the 9th of May, 1888, the American bark Carrie Heckle (Capt. M. E. Colcord, master) parted her chain at Port Natal, and losing one anchor was forced by stress of weather to bear away for Delagoa Bay, where she arrived on the 17th May with all her papers except a bill of health from the Portuguese consul at Port Natal; and further, it appears that notwithstanding the captain procured such a bill by telegraph, under the direction of the authorities at Delagoa Bay, he was fined in the sum of about £15 sterling, and paid the amount under protest. The above facts are admitted in the record of the imposition of the fine, and the statement is made that vis major and distress could not exempt from the fine, since no provision for such contingencies was contained in the regulations.

Notwithstanding the absence of such a provision from the regulations, it is a principle universally accepted and founded in the strictest justice that a vessel can not be held liable for a penal violation of port laws, by being driven into port by stress of weather, a rule so clear and necessary that argument can not add any three to it. I am instructed to state that it is hoped that the Portugese Government will remit the fine. I have the honor to inclose to your excellency a copy of the certificate from the president and secretary of the board of health at Lourenco Marques.

I avail, etc.,

E. P. C. Lewis.
[Page 651]
[Inclosure 2 in No. 163.]

Mr. Gomes to Mr. Lewis.

Sir: I acknowledge the receipt of the note dated 22 current, which your excellency did me the honor to address me on the case of the line imposed on the captain of the Carrie Heckle in Lourenco Marques.

I have forwarded an account of the contents of said note to the proper authorities, whose report I await before replying to your excellency.

I avail, etc.,

Barros Gomes.